Local officials are calling for the cancellation of an indoor gala set to be hosted this week by the New York Young Republican Club, warning that their annual fundraiser could violate state laws, while spreading COVID-19 at a time when the city faces a rapid growth in cases and hospitalizations. Members of the Republican club, meanwhile, have brushed off the concerns as irrational.
"No one is required to attend this event and everyone who chooses on his or her own volition to attend understands the associated 'risks' and has rationally assessed them not to be cause for material concern," Gavin Wax, the 26-year-old president of the New York Young Republican Club, said in a statement.
The gala, scheduled for Thursday night, will feature a keynote speech from Sarah Palin, a guest appearance by right-wing activist James O'Keefe, and a "premium open bar," according to the invitation [Update: Palin is out. Scroll down for more]. Tickets for non-club members cost $325. Organizers say the event has sold out.
"We have sold the maximum number of tickets that is allowed per the relevant state laws and regulations," Wax wrote in a message to Gothamist. "This includes any and all staff."
Under the state's current COVID restrictions, the gathering is allowed to take place if attendance does not exceed 50 people, and all participants wear a mask and practice social distancing. The maximum capacity would drop to 10 people if the city were made an "orange zone," something Governor Andrew Cuomo has previewed, but stopped short of doing.
A spokesperson for the Governor's Office said they had reached out to city officials to ensure they were aware of the planned event.
"It doesn't matter if you're a young Republican, old Democrat, or middle-aged Independent — in New York, non-essential gatherings like this are limited to no more than 50 people, and anyone traveling from a non-contiguous state must follow New York's travel advisory rules, including protocols for quarantining or testing," Jack Sterne, the spokesperson, said in a statement.
Wax declined to say how many tickets have been sold for the gala, or whether Palin would attend in-person or virtually. The location of the black tie affair would not be made public beforehand, he said.
A previous version of the invitation listed the Caldwell Factory in Chelsea as the venue, and the events company MMEink as a sponsor. A spokesperson for MME said that neither their company nor Caldwell Factory were involved in the event.
According to State Senator Brad Hoylman, the event will be hosted by the Women's National Republican Club, which has its headquarters in Midtown. A person who answered the phone at the Women's National Republican Club, who declined to give their name, insisted this was not the case.
Regardless of location, Hoylman said the event should be cancelled immediately.
“Exactly a week after so many of us made the sacrifice of an in-person gathering with family and loved ones on Thanksgiving to stop the spread of COVID, the New York Young Republicans are setting the stage for a superspreader event in my district," he said.
UPDATE December 2nd, 2020: Sarah Palin will not be attending the gala, according to a spokesperson for the former Alaskan governor. The spokesperson did not provide a reason for her absence, but said the event's hosts were informed earlier this week. Palin is still listed as the gala's keynote speaker, and attendees are promised the opportunity to "meet-and-greet" the one-time vice presidential candidate.